Book Chat

Reading Life: October and November 2017

Whew, it’s been a minute since my last Reading Life update! I skipped last month so I combined October and November in this post… but when faced with over a dozen books to write about, I almost gave up; I’m sure you won’t mind that these “reviews” are on the short and sweet side. This time of the year feels so rushed, so I’m really trying to take a step back and actually enjoy the season… reading included!

October-November 2017 Thoughts


What to Expect the First Year, by Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel

Start date: 10/11/2016
Finish date: 10/11/2017
Source: Series
Genre: Nonfiction / Parenting
Format: Paperback
3 stars 

I liked What to Expect When You’re Expecting enough that I bought a secondhand copy of this one and intended to read a month ahead throughout Amelia’s first year… but that didn’t happen. I stopped reading around the 6-month mark but then caught back up toward Amelia’s first birthday. I still consider this series a helpful resource – it’s nice to have everything in one place when you actually need it – but in this age of information-on-demand, it’s not exactly necessary. In fact, sometimes it was so impartial that it became a detriment; instead of having a point of view, it skimmed all the possible views, which could feel like a non-answer. Want to know the expert advice on napping? Here’s a list of 10 different philosophies, you should try them all! With so many resources available online, if I had a specific question I usually consulted Google before thinking of this book, but I’ll still probably keep it on hand for the next child.

A Court of Wings and Ruin, by Sarah J. Maas

Start date: 7/18/2017
Finish date: 10/10/2017
Source: Sommer W.
Genre: YA Fantasy
Format: eBook
4 stars

Solid ending to a trilogy, with lots of plot twists and satisfying character arcs. The world building has been established plenty in the first two books, but I liked learning more about the side characters and other kingdoms within the fairy realm of Prythian. Although if I’m being honest (without going into spoiler territory), I expected more main characters to die. I’m sure I’ll read the next one when it comes out in May 2018!

The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles that Reveal How to Make Your Life Better (and Other People’s Lives Better, Too), by Gretchen Rubin

Start date: 9/27/2017
Finish date: 10/19/2017
Source: Blogging for Books
Genre: Nonfiction
Format: Hardcover
3 stars

As usual, Gretchen Rubin manages to make something as potentially dry as an in-depth look at how people respond to expectations into an engaging read! This is a follow-up to her previous book about habits, Better than Before, when she introduced her theory of the Four Tendencies, a framework to categorize how most people respond to inner and outer expectations.

The best part is that the framework applies to everyone, and once you take the quiz you’ll be diagnosing people in your own life left and right. The sections on tendency pairings was especially interesting, and I read a lot of it aloud to Sam – once I figured out he was a Questioner (I’m hands-down an Obliger), so much of what she wrote about each tendency made a lot of sense!

Full review here!

Also, my thoughts on Gretchen Rubin’s previous books:
The Happiness Project (July 2010)
Happier at Home (March 2015)
Better than Before (December 2015)

Good Night Mississippi, written by Adam Gamble and Mark Jasper, illustrated by Joe Veno

Start date: 10/9/2017
Finish date: 10/9/2017
Source: Gift
Genre: Children’s Lit
Format: Board Book
2 stars

When we visit Sam’s family in Mississippi, it’s tradition to eat brunch at Cracker Barrel on the day we leave, and when my MIL saw this book in the shop she insisted on getting it for Amelia. Of course I love adding to Amelia’s library, and it’s even more fun to have a companion to the Good Night San Francisco board book that I picked up when we lived there (years before Amelia!). The sites range from blues music to catfish to football (of course), but I wish the illustrations had more originality.

ABC Look at Me, by Roberta Grobel Intrater

Start date: 10/13/2017
Finish date: 10/13/2017
Source: Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library
Genre: Children’s Lit
Format: Hardcover
2 stars

Each letter of the alphabet is given an emotion and a photograph to go with it, from angry to zany. Not the greatest quality in terms of writing or durability, but there’s no denying that babies love looking at other babies. (Also, a small quibble: although the tagline says it’s a “Lift and Learn Book,” there are no flaps.) Not my favorite, but we’ll keep it around until Amelia grows out of it.

Turtles All the Way Down, by John Green

Start date: 10/22/2017
Finish date: 10/24/2017
Source: John Green book tour
Genre: Young Adult
Format: Hardcover
4 stars

This one is hard to write, because I have a lot of thoughts, but I’ll try to keep it brief. John Green is the quintessential YA author and I’m a big fan, so I was very excited to see him in Nashville during his book tour (read my post about it here!), and to receive a signed copy of his latest book. That night was a really fun experience, and some of the bits from the event made even more sense after reading the book – like all the science stuff about Tuatura taxonomy (Google it!). John Green talked about his own experiences with mental illness, and how he used that experience to write about Aza, a teenager with intrusive OCD thoughts. There’s also a fugitive billionaire and cash prize and some romance, but that part felt like more of a subplot than the main story. The reading experience was intense, but perhaps because the subject matter is so personal for the author, the tone was not as light nor the results quite so magical as his previous novels. I would love to talk about this one with a book club!


The Magician’s Land, by Lev Grossman

Start date: 10/25/2017
Finish date: 11/13/2017
Source: The Magicians trilogy
Genre: Fantasy
Format: Hardcover
4 stars

I finished up the MMD Challenge with this book: A book you were excited to buy or borrow but haven’t read yet. I bought this book as soon as it came out, and brought it to the Southern Festival of Books in 2014 to be signed by the author (Full post here! Lev Grossman gave a fun talk about the making of the SyFy TV show that was about to air its first season). And yet… I never read it until nearly three years later! I have a problem finishing series, obviously! The first two books in the series helped me through dark times, but after recommending the first book to a couple people who didn’t care for it, I worried that maybe it wasn’t as good as I remembered and it was just my mindset at the time of reading that needed an escape. But fortunately that’s not the case, and I still love Lev Grossman’s writing! I love the witty way he modernizes traditional fantasy tropes and I love Quentin Coldwater’s existential angst, and it just made me happy to revisit the world of Fillory one more time. Fortunately it didn’t matter how much time had passed between books, and it feels fitting that I started the series in my early twenties, and finished the trilogy at the end of that decade, just like Quentin.

Bossypants, by Tina Fey

Start date: 11/4/2017
Finish date: 11/6/2017
Source: Re-read
Genre: Memoir
Format: Library book

I think of Tina Fey’s “The Mother’s Prayer for its Daughter” fairly often, and felt the urge to re-read it, so I checked it out from the library. I skimmed most of it and savored the highlights – her SNL skits as Sarah Palin are still so good! – and there are so many good nuggets about motherhood. I  love what she says about how every mother, whether they’re working or staying at home or somewhere in the middle, sits on the floor and cries about it on a quarterly schedule. Sounds about right! When motherhood gets me down, sometimes I turn to a serious nonfiction parenting book, and sometimes I just need to laugh it off.

Do yourself a favor and read “The Mother’s Prayer for its Daughter” here – or listen to Tina Fey read it!

And here’s my review from the first time I read Bossypants – all the way back in December 2013!

Little Poems for Tiny Ears, written by Lin Oliver and illustrated by Tomie dePaola

Start date: 11/20/2017
Finish date: 11/20/2017
Source: Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library
Genre: Children’s Lit
Format: Hardcover
3 stars

Short and sweet poems about daily life, with illustrations by one of my very favorites.

Bebe Day by Day: 100 Keys to French Parenting, by Pamela Druckerman

Start date: 11/22/2017
Finish date: 11/29/2017
Source: McKay Used Books
Genre: Nonfiction / Parenting
Format: Hardcover

I picked this up at McKay Used Books on a whim because I liked her first book (Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting) and I’ve been thinking of rereading it, but didn’t necessarily need all the personal bits of her expat experience in France. This was exactly what I wanted – it’s not as engaging as the memoir, but the information is distilled into digestible bits. It could be a good gift idea but personally I wouldn’t be as impressed without reading the memoir first, which explains the differences between French and American parenting styles a lot more thoroughly (and also why you might prefer French parenting when you see the results). I still don’t agree with everything, especially when it comes to the “Oh, men will be men” philosophy, but overall it’s full of helpful reminders.

Read my review of Bringing Up Bebe here. (I read it in March 2016, when I knew I was pregnant but hadn’t shared it publicly yet!)

Commonwealth, by Ann Patchett

Start date: 11/22/2017
Finish date: 11/28/2017
Source: Southern Festival of Books
Genre: Fiction
Format: Paperback

I always like to buy a couple books at the Southern Festival of Books, so this year Amelia got SkippyJon Jones and I picked out a signed edition of Ann Patchett’s latest book. I’ve been meaning to read her work for a while, both because she’s a local writer who co-owns Parnassus Books in Nashville, and because I keep hearing great things on my favorite literary podcast What Should I Read Next?. This gripping novel tells the story of two intertwined families whose children spend summers together, and how they react when a tragic event becomes fodder for a bestselling book. I loved the writing and the nonlinear storyline, which jumps back and forth between characters and time. Patchett did a great job of exploring the anger that children can harbor, as well as their unique sense of logic; it felt realistic to me and not at all twee like some depictions of childhood. I definitely want to read more of her back catalog – I’ve got This is the Story of a Happy Marriage and Bel Canto on my list to read next!

Still Reading:

Moms on Call: Toddler Book, by Laura Hunter and Jennifer Walker

Start date: 11/1/2017
Source: Friend (Sommer W.)
Genre: Nonfiction / Parenting
Format: eBook

We hit a rough patch around Amelia’s first birthday and I needed some guidance, so I was super grateful when a friend sent me this book! She likes the authors’ first book for the one-and-under set, and I’ll definitely be picking up that one for a refresher if/when we’re ready for baby #2. So far I like the reassuring tone and commonsense advice. The urgency passed as I adjusted to some new behaviors, so I read to about the halfway mark, but it’s here when I need it. I think it’s geared toward slightly older toddlers, when they can comprehend more, like explaining house rules. That’s one thing I really like so far – they recommend going over the house rules every night at bedtime and focusing on one area where your child can improve; the language they provide is positive and easy to use, and the rules are great for this age: Obey Mommy and Daddy, Don’t Hurt Yourself, and Don’t Hurt Others. Rules to live by!

The Happiest Toddler on the Block: How to Eliminate Tantrums and Raise a Patient, Respectful, and Cooperative One- to Four-Year-Old, by Harvey Karp

Start date: 11/1/2017
Source: Library
Genre: Nonfiction / Parenting
Format: Paperback

When in doubt, go to the library! I liked The Happiest Baby on the Block, so I went back to Harvey Karp for the next book in the series. Although I wasn’t a big fan of his constant references to “cave mommies and daddies” in the first book, what he says about toddlers being more primitive makes a lot of intuitive sense, and he explains how to communicate with your toddler and prevent/deal with tantrums effectively. Again, the urgency diminished somewhat but I was reassured that he mentioned that clashes often begin around the first birthday, especially since Amelia seems to fit into the “shy temperament” he describes.

My review of The Happiest Baby on the Block here!

Reading People: How Seeing the World through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything, by Anne Bogel

Start date: 11/21/2017
Source: Modern Mrs. Darcy blog
Genre: Nonfiction / Self Help
Format: Paperback

I love Anne Bogel’s book blog and podcast, so of course I had to pre-order her new book. She does the work of reading all those books about personality types and breaks it down into the most useful information, ranging from Myers-Brigg to Strengthfinders. I might switch to the audiobook just because I love the sound of her voice, but for self-help-type nonfiction I usually absorb it better if I read a physical book. So far, it’s interesting stuff!

Books read in October: 6
Books read in November: 5
Books read in 2017: 68
Still reading: 3

So that’s what I’ve been reading during the months of October and November; only one month left of 2017!

I’m always looking for more book recommendations – are you reading any good books?

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2 thoughts on “Reading Life: October and November 2017

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